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Monday, 27 March 2017

UK Parliament condemns Pakistan for declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as fifth frontier

A motion was passed in the British Parliament condemning Islamabad’s announcement declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth frontier, saying the region is a legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.

The motion which was tabled on March 23 and sponsored by Conservative Party leader Bob Blackman, stated that Pakistan, by making such an announcement, is implying its attempt to annex the already disputed area.

“Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression,” the motion read.

It was further noted that the attempts to change the demography of the region was in violation of State Subject Ordinance and the ‘forced and illegal construction’ of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) further aggravated and interfered with the disputed territory.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry has said that Beijing was ready to work with Islamabad to take forward the CPEC to benefit the people of both countries.

The CPEC is a 51.5 billion dollar project that aims to connect Kashgar, in China’s western province of Xinjiang, with the port of Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

Baloch political and human rights activists have demanded a special rapporteur in the United Nations to probe gross human rights violations in Balochistan province.

With Pakistan planning to declare Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province, the Baloch leaders have warned Islamabad of serious repercussions stating that this development will only lead to massive resistance by the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The Gilgit-Baltistan area is Pakistan’s northernmost administrative territory that borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

A committee headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz recommended to grant the region a provincial status, reports the GeoNews.

Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh are four provinces of Pakistan.

However, India claims the Gilgit-Baltistan area as an integral part of its territory.

The area is significant to both Pakistan and China as the $46 billion CPEC passes through the region.

New Delhi has fervently maintained that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes areas currently under Pakistan occupation, is an integral part of the Union of India.

(Source: Satya Vijayi)

Stoke Newington florist sells sticks for up to £18... despite being minutes from park

A florist in a trendy corner of east London has started selling sticks for up to £18 – despite being located yards away from a park.

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine shared a photo on Twitter of a selection of sticks and empty jam jars taken at Botanique, sparking a flurry of jokes on social media.

Located in Stoke Newington Church Street, the “artisan store and flower shop” is just down the road from Clissold Park.

One customer told the Standard: "They vary in price from £12 to £18 and they are decorative.

"Everything else is quite reasonably priced for Stoke Newington."

The image was originally taken by food writer Debora Robertson who tweeted: “There is a new shop in Stoke Newington selling sticks because of course there is.

“For those asking, the Stoke Newington sticks start at £12.

“The sticks have no magic powers as far as I know.”

She added : “They have some very nice things, as well as the sticks.”

Jennifer Earle wrote in response: “The gentrification is complete.”

“Sometimes I feel like stokey has turned into a clichéd comedy sketch,” wrote another follower.

Andrea Norrington shared a photo of a chewed-up piece of wood, writing: “Looks like the dog has just chewed at least a tenners worth of stick.”

“Hipsters will buy any old tat as long as it's pricey & artisan,” joked Dawn Jagdev.

Kevin Liddy wrote: “That stick in the middle is exactly the one I've been looking for. Thanks for the heads up.”

But Alice Howard from Botanique said the sticks were worth the money and happy customers had included author and journalist Fleur Britten.

She said: "These aren't just any sticks. Even our shop dogs Goose and Bertie know not to touch them.

"They look quite nice displayed on a wall if you're into that kind of thing, I have a fair few at home.

"We had some as a shop display in our other shop on Exmouth Market for a while and we sold plenty.

"Sadly I haven't made my display of them to show them in use at the Stoke Newington shop yet so now here I am defending my top dollar stick collection."

Last year, a Muswell Hill interior design shop was mocked for selling painted logs at £10 each.

Customers could also bag a bargain by shelling out £15 for two or £50 for the entire batch.

(Source: Evening Standard)

10 interesting things about lefties

If you grew up left-handed, you know that it comes with some challenges.

For example, those desks at school were clearly made for righties — you know the ones I’m talking about, with the little ledge for the right arm to rest while writing the answers to pop quizzes. Those were the worst! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

From scissors to can openers and musical instruments, and even the smudging of pencil lead all over your hand, the left-handed strife never seems to end!

But, as it turns out, there is more to being left-handed than inconvenient school supplies. It correlates with which side of the brain is dominant, which dictates what your personality is going to be like.

These 10 things about left-handedness may take you by surprise. I didn’t know that the trait came along with such a vast array of other factors.

1. Lefties Make Up Only 10 Percent Of The Population
That’s right, only one out of every 10 people is left-handed. That makes them pretty special!

2. They Get A Whole Day To Themselves
August 13 is the official day to celebrate having a dominant left hand, so you better start planning that big Left-Hander’s Day bash right now.

3. They Associate "Left" With "Good"
While right-handed people associate the right side with being good, lefties think the exact opposite. In a world dominated by phrases like “right-hand man,” lefties get a slightly filtered view of the world, even if they don’t realize it. This all happens subconsciously.

4. They Are More Easily Afraid
A study out of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, showed that those who are left-handed are more likely to show signs of post-traumatic stress after watching scary movie clips. The reactions to fear that stem from the right side of the brain (which is dominant in left-handed people), were more prevalent in left-handers, as reported by The Telegraph.

5. They May Have Higher IQs
There are more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than there are righties. Also, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin were both lefties, so if you are a southpaw, you’re in good company!

6. They Can Get More Embarrassed
As reported by the BBC, lefties are more likely to succumb to their inhibitions or get embarrassed. This is due to the right side of the brain (which they associate closely with) being in charge of these emotions.

7. Being Lefty Could Correlate With Mom's State During Pregnancy
According to ABC News, moms who are more stressed during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a left-handed person, while moms over 40 at the time of birth are 128 percent more likely to birth a leftie than women in their 20s.

8. Creativity Comes Easily To Them
Lefties are better at divergent thinking, according to Business Insider, which means they’re able to come to multiple conclusions based on a certain set of information. This makes for great artists and creative types, that’s for sure.

9. There Are Plenty Of Royal Lefties
Prince William and his son, Prince George, are both left-handed. The royal family has had a string of other left-handed members, including Queen Victoria and King George VI, as well as the Queen Mother.

10. There Have Been Eight Known Left-Handed Presidents
James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama are all of the known left-handed presidents from our country’s past. This number could be much higher, though, as in past generations, being left-handed was frowned upon.

(Source: Little Things)

Korea has a clever way to make sure pregnant women get seats on the subway

A new campaign has begun to remind South Korean commuters to give their seats to pregnant women. Called the Pink Light Campaign, it distributes signal chips to pregnant women to carry around. When the signal chip enters a train car, it activates a dedicated pink light by the dedicated pregnant courtesy seat, alerting the person sitting there that a pregnant woman has entered the train and is standing. The light remains on until the woman has found a seat.

Keeping the boardroom out of the bedroom

A hard-charging executive has trouble balancing the power of work with the intimacy of marriage. Read this beautiful piece by Sharon Pope, a writer and master life coach in Columbus, Ohio, who is also the author of “Why Isn’t This Marriage Enough?” on NYT:

I ended my marriage after nearly 12 years. He was a good man with a good heart, who didn’t lie, cheat or belittle me. He was responsible and kind and loved me as best he could, or as much as I would allow.

At that time, I was working in corporate marketing and more interested in climbing the ladder in the financial industry than I was in creating a connected relationship with my husband. I worked long hours and made good money. My professional drive was my identity. I always felt as if I was reaching for something, and as soon as I got it, I reached again, never satisfied but also never truly happy.

I pursued the next promotion or the next job, making director by the time I was 30 and chief marketing officer by 40. I stood toe-to-toe with male colleagues that I suspected earned much more than me, even though I typically worked longer hours and was the only one among my peers with an M.B.A.

With each new accomplishment, I thought, “Maybe this will finally be enough.” But then the high would wear off, leaving me feeling alone and disconnected yet again, with the added guilt of thinking, “If I can’t be happy with all this, can I ever be happy?”

On many days, I was the only female executive at the board table. I had to be strong but not too strong. I had to have high expectations of my teams but still be likable, because my group needed to outperform the others so that I could feel worthy of my seat at the mahogany table. I had to be able to speak my mind without disrespecting anyone.

But there’s a funny thing about being a female executive in a male-dominated industry. You are strong, driven and in control at the office all day, but there’s no magic switch to flip when you arrive home every evening. So I brought that same strong, driven and controlling energy into my marriage.

I bet that was a lot of fun to curl up next to.

I would give orders. I would sarcastically correct my husband, thinking my humor would lessen the bite. I would assume the pressure of being the primary breadwinner but then resent it.

I had always been an overachiever at work, and the same was true in my home life. I did all of the cooking, grocery shopping and planning. I kept our social calendar and booked our vacations. There was almost no decision that didn’t have my mark on it.

I used to say that Christmas wouldn’t happen without me, because I would choose and purchase all the gifts (one year I counted 76), wrap them, make an endless number of Christmas cookies and plan and prepare the holiday dinners.

I felt alone because of the heavy load I was carrying. But no one had asked me to do all that. My husband didn’t have those expectations of me. I put that on myself and then resented him for not helping or carrying what I felt should have been his fair share.

I never asked for help; in my mind, asking for help was a sign of weakness.

I never expressed my own needs; I just made sure I got my way.

I never allowed myself to be vulnerable with my husband because I didn’t realize that it was a requirement for an intimate, connected relationship. Back then, I didn’t even know what an intimate, connected relationship was. I only thought in terms of tasks and achievements.

Exhausted, I started to check out of our marriage, convinced that what we had was fine. After all, our lives looked pretty good from the outside.

Then I began noticing other couples in a way I hadn’t before, how a hand would gently rest on a leg, head or shoulder. I saw the closeness of two people who seemed to exchange affection effortlessly.

I wanted that closeness and connection. But it felt so foreign; it wasn’t something I had ever known. I began to ask for that in my marriage, but after all of our years together, my husband didn’t know how to give that to me, and, frankly, I didn’t know how to receive it. So our attempts were just awkward. And I was no longer fine with fine.

After we split up, I went in search of that elusive connection and intimacy.

I found intimacy but also heartbreak.

I found affection over and over again but also brokenness and irresponsibility.

I found connection but also emotional unavailability.

I had gone from placing the burden of my happiness on my career to a man and his love, which was just another version of the same lie. I had been attempting to create a successful relationship the same way I had created a successful career: through action and force. But my take-charge, get-it-done mentality wasn’t working when it came to love.

So I stopped. I stopped dating. I stopped lying to myself. And I started trying to figure out how I’d gotten myself into this situation. Because one thing was clear: No one else was responsible.

After all, I knew who my first husband was the day I met him: a stable, secure man who wouldn’t hurt me. I ignored our relative lack of passion or spontaneity, and for more than a decade, that trade-off between safety and passion served me.

I made that trade-off; I did that.

I was the one who then went out looking for love in all the wrong places, attempting to turn men into who I needed them to be so I could feel more confident, more secure, more whatever. I invited that into my heart.

Owning up to all of this helped me change — but only so much.

More than a year after my divorce, I met Derrick through an online dating site. We lived an hour apart but started chatting. He was coming out of an 18-year marriage himself. He was calm and respectful, but also strong and confident. A firefighter and paramedic, he loved what he did, and I could tell by the way he talked about his job that he was good at it.

When we decided to meet in person, I made sure we did so on my terms, asking if he would drive to me. Sushi on a Sunday afternoon seemed like a safe start, and it was. We hit it off and started getting together regularly, sometimes spending several days together.

He was gentle and patient as I struggled to open my heart to him. I had accepted a new job and decided it was time to trade in my home for an apartment downtown. When Derrick came over, he would help me clean and pack. One day, I came home to see he had refinished my grandmother’s hope chest; it was the most thoughtful gift anyone had ever given me.

I was falling for him, but I hadn’t completely shaken my old attitudes. At my new job, I was once again working long hours, partly because I felt I needed to, but also because that was all I knew. Derrick and I got together when I could, which worked well enough.

Until one evening, about three months in, when I went out for cocktails after work with my new colleagues. I assumed it would be just one drink and I would make it back to the condo by 6 p.m., when Derrick and I planned to meet to go to dinner.

One drink turned to two, and suddenly it was 7:30 p.m. When I got home, a little too happy from all the cocktails, he was quietly fuming.

“Where have you been?” he barked.

I knew I needed to go into apology mode, but I still wasn’t thinking this was anything for him to be upset about. After all, I had acted this way dozens of times with my former husband. “The people at work asked me to go out for drinks,” I said. “I’m trying to get to know them. The time just got away from me.”

Derrick’s response was: “I will not be disrespected in this relationship, no matter how much I care about you. If you’re going to be late, you need to pick up the phone and call. I would never consider being that disrespectful to you.”

I was stunned — yet also strangely relieved: “You’re right. I’m so sorry.”

A sense of entitlement can be destructive in surprising ways. What I hadn’t known was how destructive it can be to love. I felt as if I was a big deal as the new chief marketing officer at my company. Surely, I had thought, my firefighter boyfriend would wait an hour or two for me without complaint. But if he had, would we still be together today?

It has been said that we teach people how to treat us. That night, Derrick taught me how to treat him. And by doing so, he also taught me — perhaps for the first time in my life — how to love.

Novelist Zora Neale Hurston was a cultural anthropologist first

Before novelist Zora Neale Hurston shook up the fiction-writing world with her 1937 classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God," she was doing things her way in the field of anthropology.

Hurston collected songs and folklore in Florida and Louisiana, where she embedded herself in the black communities as a participant, not just an objective observer.

Early life
Hurston was likely born in 1891 but throughout her life, she told tall tales about her age—especially in early life, she fibbed to expand her opportunities, get an education and stay in school for as long as possible.

She and her seven siblings lived in Eatonville, Florida, an all-black town outside of Orlando. They lived on five acres with citrus trees and chickens where young Hurston had time to play and think.

The only white people in Eatonville were visitors, and later Hurston wrote that, often, she sat on the front porch watching them pass by.

The porch was her gallery seat, and on her boldest days, Hurston would hop down and ask the white passersby where they were headed. You can almost see young Zora, a budding anthropologist, starting to find her passion.

A smart, precocious child, who so easily stepped over the color line, Hurston's boldness must have frightened her family and neighbors. But she later writes that she was "their Hurston, nevertheless."

A young writer
Somewhere between five and 10 years later, Hurston moved to Baltimore. She got a job and took night classes, then enrolled in high school. She was 27 by the time she earned her diploma--an age when most women would be marrying or settling down.

For a black woman in 1918, raised with Jim Crow laws and segregation, finishing high school was a big deal. But Hurston wasn't done yet.

She became a part-time student at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C. She went to class in the morning, worked at a barbershop in the afternoon, and studied at night. One of her short stories got published: It was about a young black girl who was filled with this boundless sense of joy—and that focus on black joy was pretty unusual in 1920s literature.

Later Hurston became part of the Great Migration north. When she stepped off the bus, she had less than $2 in her pocket, but she was a published author. She worked as a secretary and by fall 1925, she earned a scholarship to Barnard, where she studied anthropology.

In her research, Hurston documented exactly what she heard. The dialogue was packed with slurs and one word ran right into the next one—and that drew criticism from some black elites.

W.E.B. Du Bois says they way Hurston wrote language made black people sound primitive—in his estimation--not a great image for black people looking to improve their standing in society.

Culture collector
At Columbia University's anthropology department, Hurston worked with Franz Boas, sometimes called the Father of American Anthropology. He was pushing his students to place themselves in the center of what they study. It wasn't a big stretch for Hurston, who's been aiming to do that all along.

Her first serious fieldwork expedition was back home, in rural Florida. But she had changed since she last lived there, and it wasn't all that easy to slide back in.

She wore a nice dress and drove a car that she calls "Sassy Susie." Hurston later said she was speaking in "carefully accented Barnardese." She joked that she was asking, "'Pardon me, but do you know any folk-tales or folk-songs?'"

She failed to embed herself, and as a result, people didn't want to share their stories.

The stories she collected disappointed her. So Hurston headed back to New York, and there she found a new fan, Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist. The artists she supported called her "Mrs. Mason."

Mrs. Mason's money came with strings attached: the patron got to decide how and when Hurston's folklore made it to the public. Mrs. Mason expected the black people in Hurston's writing to have a cloying sincerity in the way that they lived and behaved.

But with the new funding, Hurston headed south to Eatonville, Florida again. This time, she had more success. She went to parties and made friends with a lady named Big Sweet who showed her the best storytellers. Big Sweet also kept Hurston out of trouble. She put herself right in the middle of the community and this time, she collected first-rate folklore.

After that, Hurston expanded her research to New Orleans to study spiritual practices like hoodoo and voodoo. To earn the devotees' trust and respect she went without food for days and laid naked near an altar for 69 hours, learning how to communicate with spirits. Hurston didn't only feel respect; she felt a sense of urgency to collect the history of voodoo--as she put it--before white folks ruined it.

Hurston's fieldwork became 100 pages of research in the 1931 "Journal of American Folklore." Then she signed a deal for her ethnography "Mules and Men," a book of Hurston's detailed, first-hand research, infused with her reflections. The book read like a collection of short stories, but it's anthropology.

Soon after, Hurston lost interest in the formalities of academic research. She pursued and then dropped out of a Ph.D. program, and applied for other funding.

In 1936, Hurston won a Guggenheim fellowship to study magic in Jamaica and Haiti--more voodoo. Hurston embedded herself again and learned about vegetable poisons and antidotes. She went on a wild boar hunt, and wrote that she went there when a chief medicine man silenced every frog in the jungle with his mind.

Working in Haiti coaxed out Hurston's most famous novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God." She returned home to publish it, and after that, more or less settled in the south. She worked with the Federal Writers Project next, collecting more stories.

Hurston continued to write until her death in 1960, although she had to take other jobs--even if she lived modestly--writing wasn't enough to support her.

There are people who might question if Hurston was indeed a scientist. But what makes a scientist anyway?

Hurston started on her porch in Eatonville making observations--one of a scientist's most important tasks. She published her research in anthropology journals. Plus, Hurston's books were her way of reporting tales of black life. She picked a medium that would speak to masses of people. So, she's decades ahead of open-source science.

She also stood up to peer review; Hurston definitely had her critics. One of her popular critiques was that something was missing from her accounts of black life. Critics couldn't find the misery, the bitterness, the smoldering resentment of black people, and they wanted to know why Hurston's characters were so carefree.

Maybe Hurston already saw that perspective. Others had documented it, meticulously. Hurston instead uncovered other parts of black life. She wanted to increase the sample size.

Maybe the best evidence that Zora Neale Hurston was a scientist comes from her, she said: "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose."

(Source: News Works)

The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”  --Winston Churchill

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters.

After the advent of British rule, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought. If anything, they were irritated at the inconveniences in taxation the famines brought about.

The first of these famines was in 1770 and was ghastly brutal. The first signs indicating the coming of such a huge famine manifested in 1769 and the famine itself went on till 1773. It killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one-third the population of Bengal. John Fiske, in his book “The Unseen World”, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorised Europe in the fourteenth century.

Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 percent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. In 1765, the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and the East India Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II.

Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.

Partial failure of crops was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. When partial failure of crops came in 1768, this safety net was no longer in place. The rains of 1769 were dismal and herein the first signs of the terrible drought began to appear.

The famine occurred mainly in the modern states of West Bengal and Bihar but also hit Orissa, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. Bengal was the worst hit. Among the worst affected areas were Birbum and Murshidabad in Bengal. Thousands migrated from the area in hopes of finding sustenance elsewhere, only to die of starvation later on. Those who stayed on perished nonetheless. Huge tracts of farmland were abandoned. Wilderness started to thrive here, resulting in deep and inhabitable jungle areas. Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah in Bihar were similarly affected.

Prior to this, whenever the possibility of a famine had emerged, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation, instituted to provide as much relief as possible to the stricken farmers. The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine, although starvation had set in from early 1770.

Then the deaths started in 1771. That year, the Company raised the land tax to 60 percent in order to recompense themselves for the lost lives of so many peasants. Fewer peasants resulted in fewer crops, which in turn meant less revenue. Hence the ones who had not yet succumbed to the famine had to pay even greater taxes so as to ensure that the British treasury did not suffer any losses during this travesty.

After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders for cash crops to be cultivated. These were intended to be exported. Thus, farmers who were used to growing paddy and vegetables were now being forced to cultivate indigo, poppy and other such items that yielded a high market value for them but could be of no relief to a population starved of food. There was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine.

The natural causes that had contributed to the drought were commonplace. It was the single-minded motive for profit that wrought such devastating consequences. No relief measure was provided for those affected. Rather, as mentioned above, taxation was increased to make up for any shortfall in revenue. What is even more ironic is that the East India Company generated higher profits in 1771 than they did in 1768.

Although the starved populace of Bengal did not know it yet, this was just the first of umpteen famines, caused solely by the motive for profit, that were to scourge the country side. Although all these massacres were deadly in their own right, the deadliest one to occur after 1771 was in 1943, when three million people died and others resorted to eating grass and human flesh in order to survive.

Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. When entreated upon, he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a telegram to him painting a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

This Independence Day, it is worthwhile to remember that the riches of the West were built on the graves of the East. While we honour our brave freedom fighters (as we should), it is victims like these, the ones sacrificed without a moment’s thought, who paid the ultimate price. Shed a tear in their memory and strive to make the most of this hard won independence that we take for granted today. Pledge to stand up for those whose voice the world refuses to hear because they are too lowly to matter. To be free is a great privilege. But as a great superhero once said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

(Source: Your Story)

Spinach leaf transformed into beating human heart tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

Scientists have found a way to use spinach to build working human heart muscle, potentially solving a long-standing problem in efforts to repair damaged organs.

Their study, published this month by the journal Biomaterials, offers a new way to grow a vascular system, which has been a roadblock for tissue engineering.

Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab using methods like 3D printing, but it’s been much harder to grow the small, delicate blood vessels that are vital to tissue health.

“The main limiting factor for tissue engineering … is the lack of a vascular network,” says study co-author Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, in a video describing the study. “Without that vascular network, you get a lot of tissue death.”
A decellularized spinach leaf is pictured before dye is added to test its ability to filter blood through tissue.

Picture of a spinach leaf after it successfully demonstrated red dye could be pumped through its veins, simulating the blood, oxygen and nutrients human heart tissue needs to grow.

One of the defining traits of a leaf is the branching network of thin veins that delivers water and nutrients to its cells. Now, scientists have used plant veins to replicate the way blood moves through human tissue. The work involves modifying a spinach leaf in the lab to remove its plant cells, which leaves behind a frame made of cellulose.

“Cellulose is biocompatible [and] has been used in a wide variety of regenerative medicine applications, such as cartilage tissue engineering, bone tissue engineering, and wound healing,” the authors write in their paper.

The team then bathed the remaining plant frame in live human cells, so that the human tissue grew on the spinach scaffolding and surrounded the tiny veins. Once they had transformed the spinach leaf into a sort of mini heart, the team sent fluids and microbeads through its veins to show that blood cells can flow through this system.

The eventual goal is to be able to replace damaged tissue in patients who have had heart attacks or who have suffered other cardiac issues that prevent their hearts from contracting. Like blood vessels, the veins in the modified leaves would deliver oxygen to the entire swath of replacement tissue, which is crucial in generating new heart matter.

The study team says the same methods could be used with different types of plants to repair a variety of tissues in the body. For instance, swapping out the cells in wood might one day help fix human bones.

“We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” study co-author Glenn Gaudette, also of WPI, says in a press statement. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”

(Source: NG)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Some utterly unexpected facts about Japan

In Japan, it’s usually women who show their affection and give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day. This tradition allows girls to express their feelings, and they don’t have to wait for the man to make the first move.

In the Land of the Rising Sun, everyone normally makes a snowman with just two snowballs.

Fish and meat are very cheap in this country. However, fruit is very expensive. An apple usually costs $2, while a bunch of bananas can be purchased for about $5. The most expensive fruit is melon: in Tokyo, it will cost around $200.

Colonel Sanders is one of the major symbols of Christmas in Japan, just as Coca-Cola is in the United States. On Christmas Eve, the Japanese go to KFC and eat a large portion of chicken wings. Since the vast majority of Japanese people are either Buddhists or Shintoists, they celebrate Christmas just for the fun of it.

Pornography is sold absolutely everywhere, and every “combini“ (grocery store) has a separate shelf for it. In small bookstores, pornography comprises about one-third of the entire assortment, while in the large bookstores, 2 to 3 floors are assigned to adult content.

People in Japan eat dolphins. The Japanese use them to prepare soups, ”kushiyaki" (skewered chicken), or even eat them uncooked. Dolphin meat is quite tasty and has a unique taste that doesn’t resemble that of fish.

Japan has female-only carriages on its metro system. These are mostly used during the morning rush hour so that women can ride with a sense of security. A lot of Japanese men practice voyeurism, so touching or groping women on crowded subway trains is a common thing here. However, this country has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world.

In Japan, everyone knows that Hello Kitty was created in England.

The Japanese never leave work on time. Employees usually wait until their boss lets them go home or leave only after their employer has left. Since the executives in Japan usually stay at work for three or four extra hours, their subordinates often have to work late into the night too. Leaving work on time (even if you have a good reason for it) is enough to invite accusations of disloyalty to the company.
The school year begins on April 1 and is divided into trimesters.

Schoolgirls in Japan are not allowed to wear tights even in cold weather. Knee-high socks, which are part of the standard school uniform, should be worn throughout the year. Students’ skirts vary in length depending on their age: the older the girl, the shorter the skirt is.

In Japan, it’s absolutely normal to see a woman on the street wearing a skirt so short that it reveals her underwear or a part of her buttocks. However, dresses or tops with a deep neckline are considered vulgar.

The concept of honor is very important to Japanese people. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned because he couldn’t fulfill his pre-election promises. The two ministers that preceded him had also behaved the same way.

Japan is the only country in the world where a one-minute threshold is considered the criterion of being late. The only reason for the delay of a train is a suicide under its wheels.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Sometimes suicides are committed just in order to support another person or because the head of the family has decided so.

Even today in Japan, about 30% of all marriages are arranged by the parents. This tradition is called "Omiai."

In all northern cities of Japan, streets and sidewalks are heated in the winter, so there is no ice.

However, most Japanese homes and apartments don’t come with any form of central heating. Most homes rely primarily on oil heaters and gas or kerosene stoves.

The Japanese language has the interesting word “karoshi“ that means ”death from overwork." This diagnosis contributes to the deaths of more than 10,000 Japanese workers each year.

In Japan, you can smoke everywhere except on railway station platforms and at the airports.

However, there are no waste bins, and one is not allowed to flick cigarette ash to the ground. That’s why every smoker in Japan carries a small ashtray with them.

Japan is the last country in the world that can be called an empire. The Japanese imperial dynasty was never interrupted. Akihito, the reigning Emperor of Japan, is a direct descendant of the first Emperor Jimmu, who founded the empire in 711 BC.

The Japanese love to eat and love to talk about food. While eating, it is necessary to praise the meal. It is considered very impolite not to say “delicious” several times during the meal.

Raw horse meat is considered a delicacy in Japan. It is called basashi and is sliced thinly and eaten raw.

The Japanese language uses three different systems for writing: hiragana (syllabic system for writing Japanese words), katakana (an alphabet used to write non-Japanese borrowed words), and kanji (hieroglyphic writing).

There are no foreign workers in Japan. According to Japanese law, the minimum wage for foreign workers is higher than the average salary of a Japanese citizen. That’s why companies in this country are more likely to hire a Japanese citizen than an immigrant.

Almost all railways in Japan are private. The only exceptions are the shinkansen: high-speed trains connecting the big cities of Japan.

Mount Fujiyama is the private property of The Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha shrine. Takeda Shingen donated the territory on Mount Fuji to this temple back in 1609.

The Japanese language has several degrees of courtesy: conversational, respectful, polite, and very polite. Women’s speech usually contains more respectful forms than men’s.

The Japanese have no month names. Instead, months are named with sequential numbers. For example, September is “kugatsu,“ which means ”the ninth month.“

Ethnic Japanese make up 98.4% of the total population of Japan.

In Japan, prisoners do not have the right to vote in elections.

If a Japanese person does not want to assist you with something, they will never say “no.” Instead they will assure you that they will think over the ways to help or that your problem needs some time to check. However, you will never get an answer.

Tokyo is the safest city in the world. Six-year-olds can travel on public transport on their own.

The ninth article of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and prohibits Japan from establishing its own military forces.

There are no landfills in Japan because all garbage is recycled. Garbage is classified into four types: combustible trash, incombustible trash, glass containers, and recyclable waste.

There are no dustbins on the streets, only special containers for collecting bottles.

Public pensions in Japan are very low, and there is no obligatory pension insurance. Every Japanese person has to take care of their old age by themselves.

Men are always served first. In restaurants, men are usually first to order their meals, and in stores, shop assistants normally greet men first.

All toilets in Japan are equipped with heated seats and at least ten additional buttons. Moreover, most Japanese public restrooms have water-flushing sound machines to mask any embarrassing sounds.

Leaving tips is not a common practice in Japan. It is believed that as long as the customer pays the actual price for the service, they treat the seller as an equal. If you do attempt to tip someone, it can be considered rude.

The age of consent in Japan is 13 years old. It is the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity.

In Japanese, the notions of “being wrong“ and ”being different“ are expressed by the same word: “chigau.”

All Japanese cell phones come with a built-in emergency notification alert. When a disaster happens, the phone will beep loudly (even if the sound is turned off), and every person will receive an emergency message warning them of the danger and giving them instructions on how to act.

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Japan. Three inmates were executed last year, while seven people were given the death penalty.

Small circular or square seals called ”hanko" are used instead of a signature on many documents in Japan. Each Japanese person has such a seal, and it is used many times during the day. You can buy such a seal in any shop.

In Japan, it is impolite to open a present in the presence of the person who has given it. You should say thank you for the gift and open it only after the guests have left.

The Japanese believe that every person should be able to hide their suffering behind a mask of smiles and happiness.

Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world with men living to 81 years and women living to almost 88 years.

Property rights in Japan are highly respected. There are dozens of companies with more than a thousand-year history. For example, Houshi Ryokan hotel has been in business since 718, and the same family has run it for 46 generations.

Two-thirds of Japan’s territory is covered with forests. However, the Japanese government has banned the use of the country’s own wood for commercial purposes. So Japan consumes about 40% of all wood harvested from tropical forests.

The Japanese language has thousands of borrowed foreign words, known as “gairaigo.“ These words are often truncated, e.g. personal computer = ”paso kon."

(Source: Brightside)

New search engine for kids means no more finding twerking videos by mistake

The recently launched “Kiddle” promises to keep kids safe in their internet searching.

If you’ve ever checked the search history of your kid’s tablet and found entries such as “boobs,” boy, do we have great news for you! There’s a kid-friendly search engine that promises to all but eliminate the possibility of your child stumbling upon Miley Cyrus’ 2013 VMA performance while you’re too busy cooking dinner to pay attention!

Kiddle, powered by Google safe search but not owned by them, looks an awful lot like the Google search interface we’re all familiar with, but includes some cute child-like tweaks. Instead of the familiar, austere, white background there’s a fun outer space theme with a robot alien near the search bar.

According to Tech Times, Kiddle offers search results hand-picked by editors to ensure their kid-friendliness. The first one to three results will always be curated by the editors — safe sites written specifically for children. The next few results will feature sites in simple language that will be easy for kids to understand. The rest will be sites tailored to adults that may be harder for kids to digest, but are still filtered by Google safe search to avoid them stumbling on anything inappropriate.

In its “about” section, Kiddle promises your child will be safe in their searching. The logs are cleared every 24 hours and Kiddle collects no personal information. We tested the “safe content” promise by searching a few unsavory keywords kids might try to search. And Kiddle was an excellent guard dog.

Searches for “butts” and “penis” yielded the same angry robot man telling your kid to go back to square one and try again. As the parent with a kid who routinely types “sex” and “poop” into any search bar he gets his hands on, (thank you, asshole fifth grader on the bus) this is a welcome relief. My kids love playing with Google and Kiddle appears to be a fantastic and safe alternative. Hopefully, once they get past the thrill of typing in naughty words, they’ll actually look up subjects that interest them. And when they do, Kiddle’s got their back.

Let’s say your child wants to learn more about Justin Bieber but you’d rather they not find out about that time he pissed in a mop bucket or see the ass photo he posted on Instagram. Kiddle’s search will only display family-friendly biographies about the Biebs, filtering out his douchiest acts. Frankly, we should all be spared.

In this digital age, we must accept that our kids will have to use computers a lot earlier than we ever did. They’ll need the internet to do research for school and communicate with their peers and teachers. As much as we want to trust them, there are certain things it’s best not to leave to chance. Even the best parental controls haven’t stopped my kids from happening upon things they shouldn’t see but thankfully, technology is continuing to evolve and change for the better.

It looks like Kiddle might be the answer to giving kids free reign for a school project without worrying that they’ll find “Girls Gone Wild” videos in the process. Of course, we can only shield them from so much, but we have to at least try. It’s comforting when big technology companies recognize that fact and help a parent out.

(Source: Scary Mommy)

Couple who quit their jobs in advertising to travel the world is now scrubbing toilets

I love travelling and so do my hubby and my little son. We often see people travelling and exploring some part of the world constantly. While we get jealous and keep adding places to our #TravelGoals, what we don’t take into consideration is what goes behind all of it.

Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger from Johannesburg, South Africa, quit a job at advertising to travel around the globe together. Although their social media posts look perfect, they have come forward and shared what goes behind all of it on their blog and it is pretty brutal. So it's better this reality check will help all of us to set our priorities right:

After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip. Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives. And don’t get me wrong – we are. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.

You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers.

It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work.

And although the last few months have been the most rewarding, they’ve also been some of the dirtiest and smelliest, and we’ve had to adapt with the least amount of necessities and food (and not because we’re on some crazy crash diet). Whilst visits to town with our new friends in Norway meant buying beer and bags of candy for them, we’ve been forced to purchase floss (because you only get one set of pearlers, right?) and nothing else. The budget is really tight, and we are definitely forced to use creativity (and small pep talks) to solve most of our problems (and the mild crying fits).

So don’t let the bank of gorgeous photography fool you. Nuh uh. I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation (because bus fares are not part of the budget, obviously).

Although we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we are certainly learning fast that this isn’t for faint hearts, and we need to learn to react and adapt to everything that’s thrown our way. Mentally, it’s also a constant yo-yo between “I have all this time – let me use it productively, let me get fit and do everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” vs. “I have all this time – let me relax and enjoy it.” That, together with occasional bouts of boredom, demotivation and homesickness, makes this one hell of a ride.

But even though we probably have more greys than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities. We have time to brainstorm our own ideas, and push our own creative experiments. It’s like heaven for us.

Sure, wood needs to be stacked, and garbage needs to be taken out (it’s our version of a shit sandwich, as Mark Manson put it), but once that’s done, we’re free to explore, wander and be one with our meandering thoughts. You work under your own schedule, using (a lot of) spare time to jog around mirrored lakes, craft inspired creations and breathe the Arctic air. There’s nothing quite like swopping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.

A bit of history to munch on as Maddur vada turns 100

I come from this little place and I'm proud of this. I cook this snack when I feel nostalgic and my hubby absolutely loves it. But nothing can beat the taste of what my mom cooks. The ingredients are same, but it depends on who prepares it. Maddur vada turned 100 years and the Bangalore Mirror paid tribute to this yummy snack by publishing an article on it:

In April 1917, Ramachandra Budhya, who ran a Vegetarian Refreshment Room (VRR) at Maddur railway station, was at his wit’s end as the next train was about to arrive in a few minutes and he didn’t have enough time to prepare the pakodas that he usually served to the passengers.

He calculated the time it would take the train to arrive at the station, slapped all the ingredients at his disposal into a thin patty and fried it. Thus the Maddur vada, which has been the preferred snack of railway passengers across Karnataka and other states, was invented.

Budhya, hailing from Kundapura, had moved to Maddur a few years back and had been given permission to run the VRR at the station. He was selling idli vadas to the hundreds of passengers of the many trains running between Mysuru and Bengaluru. On that summer day, he introduced the new snack to commuters and the rest, as they say, is history.

Recalling the incident, Jayaprakash, owner of Maddur Tiffany’s, says, “Ramachandra Budhya got a little creative as the train was just a few minutes from arriving in the station. He took all the ingredients and prepared the vada in a few minutes.”

Soon, the Maddur vada became the preferred snack of railway commuters, and a common sight on the train railway journey from Mysuru to Bengaluru.

It came to be associated with the Mysuru kingdom, and Ramachandra Budhya’s descendants furthered its marketing due to the demand created for the snack in a section of the public.

Budhya ran the VRR at the station from 1917 to 1937, and his kin ran the place till 1948.

Since 1948, the snack has been made famous by the family of HD Hebbar, whose descendants are now looking after the famous Maddur Tiffanys on the Mysore-Bangalore National Highway in Maddur.

Nagaraj, the elder brother of Jayaprakash, recalls, “HD Hebbar was the man who improved the quality of Maddur vada, which is now preferred by thousands of train commuters. HD Hebbar operated the VRR in Maddur railway station till 1973, which was later given to his son D Gopalaiah.”

It was Gopalaiah who took the snack to the next level by making it available outside the railway station too.

This demand culminated in Jayaprakash, son of D Gopalaiah, starting Maddur Tiffanys in 1987.

This attracted thousands of people to the canteen to have the crispy vada.

Jayaprakash said the popularity of the snack was such that one of the members of the Mysuru royal family, Shrikantadatta Chamarajendra Wadiyar, visited the canteen during his father D Gopalaiah’s time.

He also recalled transporting the snacks to the royal palace in silver vessels.

With the passage of time, the snack was introduced in other parts of the country and is available in shops and not just trains and stations.

The snack has also become a source of livelihood for those who were once preparing the vadas in Maddur Tiffany’s.

We didn’t wish to have the patent Jayaprakash said that despite the opportunity, they didn’t want to hold the patent for the vada.

“The snack has been named after this town and it is not fair to have the patent on it. Also, it has given livelihood to so many. So we do not think the snack is limited to our family. But it belongs to entire Maddur,” he says.

Explaining the taste and heritage of the snack, Chathura, a grandson of D Gopalaiah, says, “We use onion, rava, maida, rice floor and other ingredients in the required amount so that the taste of the snack remains delicious. Importantly, we buy onions only from Pune which are of the best quality. But we manage to use it in sufficient amount only because we have certain demands.”

Over time, the snack was offered by many including unauthorised vendors in trains which affected the business of VRR at Maddur station.

Eventually, the Maddur Tiffany’s had to close the VRR at the station as few trains were stopping at the station.

On January 28, as the tender was closed, Maddur Tiffany’s decided that it was the last time they would run the shop.

“We will concentrate only on the hotel now,” Chathura added.

The station master from Maddur railway station, Maniyaiah, said, “Maddur vada is not only a commercial aspect in this station, but also a heritage of the station. There are many unauthorised vendors who sell vadas here. We penalised them, but they do not stop their business. Such is the influence of the snack between these two cities.”

The number of books you’ll read before you die, charted

Every good bibliophile lives in a hamster wheel of literary pressure: There have always been, and will always be, more great books to read than there is time to read them. Not just in the workaday sense—the job stuff, family stuff, and “ooh a new episode of The Americans” stuff that gets in the way of reading on the regular—but in an existential sense. In the sense that every passing day brings us 24 hours closer to our eventual and unavoidable death. Because who knows if there’s a Barnes & Noble in heaven?

Over at Literary Hub, writer Emily Temple took it upon herself to quantify this ever-shortening window between the book we’re reading now and the last book we’ll read… ever. By combining data from the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator with US reading-pattern data from the Pew Research Center, Temple was able to calculate the number of books any given age group can expect to finish before shuffling off the mortal coil. She even provides calculations for each of three reading types: average US readers (12 books a year, per Pew), voracious readers (50 books a year) and super readers (80).

The results aren’t scary per se—I’m a 31-year-old “voracious reader” and 2,800 books does sound like a lot–but they are illuminating, and worth remembering the next time you’re perusing a bookstore. Sure, War and Peace is a classic, but it may cost you five page-turners in the long run.

(Source: Quartz)

Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter to Modi, Bachchan, SRK, Salman and Aamir!

Dear Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Anil Ambani,

I am writing to YOU specifically because you are the most powerful and influential MEN in our country.

I am writing to you as a woman who grew up in a middle class family in Mumbai.

I am writing to YOU for HELP!

My parents may not like me saying this. I apologize to them if they are reading but this is NOT MY SHAME. It’s THIER SHAME.

My first experience with the opposite sex, was when I was just 13 and groped by a man (never saw his face but will never forget his hand) while walking in the vegetable market with my mom. She had just given me the worst haircut and as an angry teenager I was upset at her and was lagging behind as she walked ahead. I still remember what I was wearing. It was her dress, mustard with flowers and little bow in the front. How I hate that dress! As if, it was the dress’s fault.

I was shocked at first. Speechless. He disappeared. I just stood there. Tears started pouring out of my innocent eyes. I told my mom who went mad screaming in the market but who knew where that man disappeared to. I still remember the dirty feeling I had and the number of times I showered in my grand-mom’s bathroom after. That feeling never went away.

Since then it was non-stop. I would try to articulate this to my parents and while my mom understood, my dad and uncles told me I was imagining it. Maybe they just couldn’t deal with it. CAN YOU?

When I was 15, I started going by train and bus to St. Xaviers’ College. I was groped and touched and from all angles and this was just how I grew up. Not Just Me but MOST INDIAN WOMEN who don’t have the luxury of cars and drivers.

As a teenager I would dream of and still sometimes dream that I had a machine gun and could kill all the men who tried to grope me. A very disturbing dream for a kid, don’t you think?

I got my first assignment as a model in the FYJC and I had to go to screen-tests straight from college. So I had to dress nice, didn’t make it any easier. I specifically remember the time I went for an audition in a red body suit and a black long skirt with slits. It was HELL! I never wore that again. As if it was the dress’s fault.

I developed ways to defend myself, I always carried a bag in front of me, my fist was always clenched, I always turned around every 20 seconds to check who was behind me and a few times I slapped men who touched me, I got slapped back many times too. Sometimes saved by the public, MOST TIMES NOT.

My mom begged me not to pick fights with men who touched me, she was afraid of acid being thrown at me or that somebody someday would hurt me badly. She is STILL AFRAID and today she told me not to take an UBER to my meeting tomorrow. Hell ya. BAN UBER! Make everyone take responsibility for this.

My sister got into Sophia’s college, we were all excited. She went by bus but the first day she came home, she sobbed traumatized. A man had put his hand in her tee-shirt through her sleeve, the entire bus ride. She just froze. She was a kid too and wasn’t equipped to even understand this. I was LIVID. I’m sorry sis for telling the world this, please don’t stop speaking to me. IT’S NOT Our Shame. It’s THEIRS!

One of my friends in college was RAPED on the train on her way home in the ladies compartment. She was sick and was going home in the 11:15 break. There was nobody in the first class compartment going back to Bandra at that time, it was a superfast meaning it didn’t stop at most stations. He raped her and then jumped off after using her scrunchy (hair tie) to wipe himself. She was the only one on the train and had to limp her way back to her home in Bandra, bleeding profusely. She was just 16. This she felt was her shame so she did not say anything to anyone.


My mom accompanied me to Hyderabad on a shoot once. In churi bazaar, a cyclist groped My MOM. My dear respected and lovely MOM.

Sorry Mom, IT’S NOT Our Shame, It’s THEIR SHAME.

Why am I telling you my personal story?

Well first I want all women to Speak Up.

Let’s make this our MOTTO-


Who are “THEY”?


Not just the rapists and the sexual offenders and gropers but also our Fathers (sorry dad) and Uncles and Brothers and MOVIE STARS AND CRICKETERS AND POLITICIANS for not SAVING US or PROTECTING US by insisting and protesting for the LAWS TO CHANGE and Rapists and Gropers to BE PUNISHED SEVERELY!

Why do we as women have to feel so threatened? WHY has there been no severe action taken? This has gone on for years now. Not just in Delhi but all over our country and yes even in BOMBAY OR MUMBAI OR Whatever the hell you want to call it! It’s NOT SAFE. NO!

My biggest fear ever since I was kid and even today when I walk back home at night from yoga or when I take a rickshaw from a friend’s home is being RAPED. I still feel that fear. I am still am on guard. I still fantasize of having that MACHINE GUN.

In the past 4 years I have been living and working half in India and half in New York and let me tell you I have walked the streets of Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn (perceived as the most dangerous in NYC) at3am after parties in short skirts and felt safer than I feel in Bandra at 10 pm on a quiet road fully covered. WHY??

Let’s talk about Delhi our Capital. I was there 2 days ago and the day of the rape. I wanted to go out and walk by India Gate and admire our great monuments but could I?! Why??

What good are all your speeches in the US or Japan or AUSTRALIA- NAMO, if no woman can walk freely in the streets even in broad daylight by herself in the CAPITAL OF OUR COUNTRY. Isn’t this a SHAME? SHAME ON YOU SIR.

This is our NO1 issue. FIX THIS before anything else.

This is a SHAME. And it’s YOUR SHAME. You are now RESPONSIBLE FOR US.

I beg all of you fine gentlemen that I have addressed to help change the LAW.

You are powerful men. I say, SHAME and PUNISH THE Gropers and Sexual offenders severely. KILL THE RAPISTS.

I won’t ask for public castration which is what I want and all the women want because I know this is unrealistic and things move SO DAMN SLOW in our FINE NATION.

All I ask for is the -Death Penalty Please. NOW! QUICK!

If that’s too hard or will take too long then at least LIFE IMPRISONMENT.

Put them away forever.

Why was this man who had raped twice before out on bail?

And then given a drivers license? YES, BAN UBER TOO. Make everyone responsible.

I’m ready to do anything. I’m not a big enough celeb but you Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sharukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Anil Ambani SIRS- need to speak up as MEN ( you are the men with the power)


Please demand the Death Sentence for the Rapists.

NO BAIL. Just Death.

Superstars I beg you, please take a stand. Use your Superstardom and Power and MONEY and save the women of our country. SAVE US!

I urge you to protest or go on a fast or do something DRASTIC so people take notice, the government wakes up and CHANGES the LAW so these men are terrified to touch us.

Death to rapists. No bail. Just death.

Imagine Amitabh Bachchan Sir, Aamir Khan, Salmaan Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani- if you went on a fast or walked to the Rashrtrapati In Delhi. If you, took this stand and made this YOUR NO 1 issue, how much change there would be?!

Why should we as women feel so unsafe in our motherland?!

Why should we as women be terrified and on guard all the time.

Why was this man out on bail after committed two rapes already ?

Make an Example Of Him.

Any man who even touches a woman should be imprisoned for life.

Be strict, make examples of these men, scare those who dare to touch us.


SAVE US, Save your mother, daughter, sister please!




Don’t sleep till you – SAVE YOUR WOMEN!

With all respect,
Shenaz Treasurywala

(Source: Indicine)

This Bengaluru scientist hasn’t paid a water bill in 23 years

A municipal water tanker trundles into a neighbourhood that has not received water in its taps for days. Amid much jostling, a swarm of hassled residents promptly converge on it, carrying bottles, buckets, vessels, drums and basically anything that can store water. This is a familiar scene during the scorching summer months in many Indian cities.

Every year during summer, India appears to be on the verge of a water crisis once again despite witnessing bountiful rains the previous year. The fast-growing metropolis of Bengaluru, India’s IT capital, too is no exception to these water woes. Its elevation (the city is around 3,000 feet above sea level) and hard granite-gneiss terrain have also meant that sourcing water for household use has always been a challenge.

Cauvery, the closest perennial river, flows over 100 km away and at an altitude that is nearly 10,00 feet lower than Bengaluru’s, making it extremely expensive to pump water to the city’s residential areas. Also, with the city’s population swelling over the years, ground water levels have decreased sharply.

One man believes that this dire situation can be turned around. A R Shivakumar believes that a lot of water is being wasted due to mismanagement and that planned rainwater harvesting (RWH) can effectively sustain the city’s water supply.

A senior scientist at the Karnataka State Council of Science and Technology (KSCST) at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Shivakumar is not a new convert to the concept. A vociferous proponent of RWH, he does not have a Cauvery water connection in his home and he has been relying entirely on collected rainwater to serve all his family’s needs for over two decades.

Shivakumar has also invented tools that simplify RWH at home and has even worked with local authorities to popularise rainwater harvesting in Bengaluru!

In 1995, when Shivakumar started building his house, he did a lot of research to look for alternatives that would fulfill his family’s needs without harming the environment. His first step was to analyse the water bills of residents of the locality to map the water consumption of an average family.

Shivakumar’s house in Bengaluru, ‘ Sourabha’
He found that his findings matched the water consumption norms published by WHO – a family of four uses approximately 500 litres of water per day. Next, he sat and tabulated the rainfall data in the city over the last 100 years. He was surprised to discover that as per the data, there is more than enough rainfall in the city, even in the worst monsoon-deficient years.

The only catch was that while it rained for about 60-70 days in a year, the water had to last for 365 days.

“I did some calculations and realised that the gap between two good rains is seldom more than 90 to 100 days. So I built a series of RWH tanks that could store almost 45,000 litres of water to tide over these 100-odd days. Also, to ensure that a motor was not needed, I stored the water on the rooftop to avoid it being sent down and pumped up again,” explains Shivakumar.

Each tank has been fitted with an innovative filter device that has been built and patented by Shivakumar himself. Called Pop-Up Filter, the device uses a simple silver sheet to remove all impurities from the collected rainwater before channeling it around the house. It can be vertically installed on the walls of a small buildings (for bigger buildings, Shivakumar has designed a ‘First Flush Lock and Diverter’ that performs the same function).

Careful not to let even a drop of rain water go waste, Shivakumar has also dug percolation pits in the garden around his house that help in the direct recharge of the ground water table. (Incredibly, within one year of recharge, the groundwater table around Shivakumar’s house ‘Sourabha’ rose from 200 ft to around 40 ft!) This system is also a backup for the rare case in which it doesn’t rain in Bengaluru for more than 100 days – water drawn from a shallow tube well, recharged by the rainwater, helps meet the family’s requirement.

Other than RWH, Shivakumar is also judicious while using water at home. He has designed and installed an effective greywater recycling system at his home – the outlet water from his washing machine is stored in a separate tank and is used for flushing toilets in the house. In the same way, water from the kitchen is stored and used for gardening.

You may like: A Husband-Wife Duo Is Harvesting Rainwater & Solar Energy at the Same Time – Using an Umbrella!

Shivakumar has also tweaked his household devices to make them more eco-friendly. For instance, the containers used to store water from the solar water heaters have been lined with rice husk to ensure that the water stays hot throughout the day. The LED lights in the house are solar powered while the rooftop water tanks and surrounding garden help naturally air condition the house.

Over the years, Shivakumar has designed and implemented hundreds of rainwater harvesting projects in Bangalore, including at Vidhana Soudha, the Karnataka High Court, corporate offices (such as Arvind Mills and Intel India) and several housing societies in the city. He has also trained Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) plumbers, building contractors and architects in the integration of RWH in construction.

Shivakumar’s RWH systems are also being used in Africa as well in some European countries. The Norwegian government has also selected it for its joint project with the Indian government. He has been honoured with several awards like central government’s National Innovation Award, Karnataka government’s Ammulya award and Rotary International’s Citizen Extraordinary award.

The RWH expert also played a key role in getting the Karnataka government to pass an amendment to the (BWSSB) Act that made rainwater harvesting compulsory for houses and offices with an area greater than 2,400 sq. ft. in the core of Bengaluru.

Shivakumar’s expertise and technical know-how is now being utilised by the government of Meghalaya to build a RWH infrastructure in the state. Home to Mawsynram and Cherrapunji (the wettest places in India), Meghalaya receives one of the highest rainfall in India, but still suffers from acute water scarcity when the precipitations drop sharply from November until March.

“Nature holds the answers to the problem of urban water scarcity. Contrary to popular belief, rainfall in Bengaluru has actually gone up in the last few years but much of it goes unharnessed. We must catch the rain wherever and whenever it falls. If even half of the houses in the city (that are similar to mine) are retrofitted with RWH systems, Bengaluru may never face water scarcity. And this goes for other Indian cities too,” concludes Shivakumar.

To contact A R Shivakumar, click here.

(Source: The Better India)

Pakistan's north is heaven on earth

Close your eyes, and think of heaven on earth! Surrounded by mountains; sitting by the lake drinking tea; plucking mulberries from the trees; stargazing from a rooftop; sitting on a hill watching the sunrise. Think where would you find this place? Maybe Europe or Australia? No, this is Pakistan. I've been there. This is what you discover when you take a trip to the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The phantom-white mountain reared into the sky, the lakes glimmer in the callow light of dawn, the malachite-green fields covered in a bright sheen under the sun.

Moreover, Hunza Valley was reportedly the inspiration for the paradise of 'Shangri La' in the book 'Lost Horizons' by James Hilton.

It is a place not only renowned for its spectacular natural scenery, but also for its phenomenal literacy rate. Hunza, located in Gilgit-Baltistan, is a territory that emphasises gender equality and education for all, more than anything. Almost everyone in Hunza can read and write. Every child is encouraged to attend school up to at least high school from which many continue their education further on.

During my short trip to Gilgit-Baltistan, I have found it to be the best tourist destination. Pakistanis should explore it. It is more beautiful than Switzerland. Add it to your bucket list of places you want to visit for your next summer vacation. You will not be disappointed.

(Source: Khaleej Times)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Andre Agassi: ‘One day your entire way of life ends. It’s a kind of death’

The former world No1 reflects on life after tennis married to another of the sport’s greats, Steffi Graf, and says: ‘If I went back in time I would probably retire sooner’

Eight years ago, in his raw and poignant autobiography, Open, Andre Agassi wrote: “My father yells everything twice, sometimes three times, sometimes 10. Harder, he says, harder. Hit earlier. Damn it Andre, hit earlier, Crowd the ball, crowd the ball. Now he’s crowding me. He’s yelling. It’s not enough to hit everything the dragon fires at me: my father wants me to hit harder and faster than the dragon. He wants me to beat the dragon.”

Andre was seven years old, in 1977, and the dragon was a ball machine his dad, Mike – a former Olympic boxer from Iran – turned into a beast. “Nothing sends my father into a rage like hitting a ball into the net. He foams at the mouth … My arm feels like it’s going to fall off. I want to ask: How much longer, Pops? But I don’t ask. I hit as hard as I can, then slightly harder.”
Andre Agassi responded to his tough tennis education early in life by establishing foundation schools for underprivileged children. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

Forty years on an hour of conversation with Agassi is like little else in sport. The lost boy from Las Vegas is now a venerable educationalist whose eight grand slam titles and happy marriage to Steffi Graf dwarf his previous hatred of tennis and brief brush with crystal meth. But how did his dad, now 86 and described as “loyal” and “passionate” by Agassi, react to his depiction?

“When people didn’t have my nuanced take on him they just represented him as abusive. But my dad was clear. He said: ‘Andre, I know how I’ve lived and I know who I am and who I’m not. If I could do everything all over again I would change only one thing – I wouldn’t let you play tennis.’ I’d pulled the car over when he said: ‘I would only change one thing.’ I said, ‘Wow, why’s that Dad?’ He said: ‘Because I’d make you play baseball or golf so you can do it longer and make more money.’ I got back on the freeway with a chuckle.”

Agassi’s knowing laugh echoes his belief that “you can’t spread who you are without being broken first. Sometimes, when you’ve been broken into pieces, you come back and give much more to people. You can see my scars and they’re key to me making a difference in other lives now. You can’t have any wounds in this game that don’t leave scars. They never quite heal but they make you who you are.”

Agassi is so obviously intelligent it’s tempting to wonder what he might have done if his father had been obsessive about education rather than tennis. “Yeah, but my dad is the reason I’m in education now,” Agassi says. “My lack of education, a lack of choice, had a huge impact. The question always remains: what might you have done? But I don’t have any deep regrets.”

A possible outcome, if his dad had turned the classroom into his battleground, is Agassi would have ended up hating learning and buried himself now in middle-aged games of tennis. Instead he has made a substantial impact on education. He was only 24 years old, wearing a mullet and hot lava pink shorts, when he started his first education foundation for underprivileged children in Vegas. In 2001, he opened a school which became an educational model in Clark County.

“That school is still thriving and our endowment allows it to live in perpetuity,” Agassi says. “I then figured out a way to scale that mission across the country and in the last three and a half years I deployed over $650m nationally to build 79 new schools.”

How many kids has Agassi helped educate? “I’ve got 1,200 kids in my foundation school and they revolve annually. I now have 38,000 kids nationwide revolving. I can’t do the math but the numbers go up pretty quickly.”

He has also launched an online tennis coaching course with Udemy, which chimes with his philosophy that teaching should be available widely. The most interesting facets of the course focus on Agassi’s tennis psychology – and his attempts to help players of different levels understand that improvement cannot always be measured in victory or defeat.
Andre Agassi, aged seven, playing tennis in Las Vegas. Photograph: John Russell/Getty Images
Agassi knows more about winning and losing than most – and his fall from being the world No1 in 1996 contains a significant lesson. “The real tragedy in my decline was happening during my success – it was the disconnect I felt from the game. Despite being good at it I had a deep resentment and even hatred of tennis. That disconnect after getting to No1 was even worse because you believe being the best will fill the void. I felt nothing. Every day is Groundhog Day and what’s the point? I declined in different ways. In some cases it was lack of work. In others it was the self-inflicted damage of drugs. I found many ways to hurt myself.

“But I got to a point where I realised that just because I didn’t choose my life doesn’t mean I can’t take ownership of it. That was the epiphany. But epiphanies don’t change your life. It’s what you do with them that changes your life. That’s when I saw children whose lack of choice was far worse than mine. I found myself feeling pretty blessed but compelled to confront the unconscionable reality of these kids – which is that, without education, there’s no hope, no choice, no breaking the downward spiral. Once I started to focus on that, tennis became a vehicle for me. I started to appreciate it. I learned a lot when trying to get back to No1 as it’s much harder. I realised you had to plan your work and work your plan. That became my mantra.”

Agassi became the world No1 again in 1999 and competed in grand slam tournaments for another seven years. In 2005 he lost the US Open final to Roger Federer while, the following summer, he was defeated in his last match at Wimbledon by Rafael Nadal. Agassi watched his old adversaries play the Australian Open final in January – with Federer winning his 18th slam over five sets.

I hated what the scoreboard doesn’t say. It just tells you if you won or lost
“I don’t think anyone who cares about tennis could have missed that match. I was as neutral as possible because they’ve both given so much and have great stories. Of course seeing Roger win at that age was special. He never ceases to impress me but he’s stopped amazing me. I expect it from him. And Nadal persevered through so much adversity and with people writing him off. I didn’t believe that with the amount of physicality he’s put into his career he’d ever get his game back to that level. He certainly proved me wrong. It was a beautiful match and one of those times you truly wish there wasn’t a loser.”

Did Agassi also wish he could be on court playing Federer or Nadal? “No. You can’t believe you once were at that level – and, even if I could do it, I think of my life now and ask: ‘Why do they do it?’ Steffi said: ‘Can you believe what these guys are still willing to put themselves through?’ It’s remarkable but if I went back in time I would probably retire sooner.”

Surely he misses the intensity? “I miss that the least. That was always the tough part for me. I enjoyed the work that went into making yourself the best you can be but I hated what the scoreboard doesn’t say. It just tells you if you won or lost. But the biggest issue for most athletes is you spend a third of your life not preparing for the next two-thirds. One day your entire way of life comes to an end. It’s a kind of death. You just have to go through it and figure it out. In her own quiet way Steffi feels stronger than me. She’s pretty linear in how she lives. I probably do a little more reminiscing than she does – which says a lot.”
Andre Agassi in action at his final tournament – the 2006 US Open. He lost to Benjamin Becker in the third round. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images Sport

So Graf did not mind Serena Williams overtaking her, after they had been locked on 22 slams, by winning the Australian Open? “It has no relevance in her world. The hardest part of Serena chasing down those numbers was respecting the game. Steffi doesn’t want people to feel she doesn’t care about tennis. She cares but she’s so disconnected. Every time she was asked she felt obligated to put importance on it for the sake of tennis and an incredible champion in Serena.”

After Djokovic won the French Open last year, his 12th slam title, it looked like the Serb might challenge Federer’s record. But he has since lost every major, relinquished his No1 ranking to Andy Murray and was defeated again last week by Nick Kyrgios in Indian Wells.

“If it was a physical thing it would be obvious,” Agassi says of Djokovic. “You don’t lose it quickly unless you’re dealing with a significant injury. So there’s got to be something emotional, mental, behind the curtain that only he and his team know. But he’s way too good to not find the solution. He’s also going to find perspective given his history. After clearing the courts of bomb shrapnel to practice I’m sure he understands how cruel and tough life can be.”

Murray also lost early in Indian Wells and, like Djokovic, will miss Miami this week with an injured elbow. “Andy has skills that are rarely outmatched. I was never the best athlete and had to think strategically. But he has so much athleticism he has a tendency to rely on that and make matches harder than they need to be. If you brought down his speed, matches might get easier because he’d have more conviction to go after [opponents]. He’s getting more assertive and that will help because long-term wear and tear is a factor. But Andy would be terribly disappointed if he didn’t win another slam or two. There’s no question he can win more.”

Andre Agassi, in action at the 1990 French Open, is one of only eight men to have won all four grand slam tournaments. Photograph: Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Who would Agassi like to coach if he returned to tennis? “I can point to people that would be fun and interesting. To me there’s a gap between what [John] Isner, [Gaël] Monfils and Kyrgios do and what I think they could do. That’s interesting and exciting but if they don’t want to be coached it would be short-lived and painful. I would pay to watch all of those guys play but it’s impossible to say whether I could coach them.”

The idea of Agassi working with Kyrgios is fascinating. Could it be a short-term option? “I would not have any room now with my kids, who are 15 and 13. So the answer is no. I wouldn’t be able to do it because I couldn’t do it the way I would need to do it.”

Has Agassi learned to like tennis? “There’s a deep appreciation for the sport. That’s the best way to put it.”

Agassi pauses when asked if he and his wife sometimes hit a few balls in Vegas – for old time’s sake? “No. It sounds a nice idea but as soon as you hit the first couple of balls you remember you can do this but you’re also reminded of what you can’t do. I just thank God I played the game long enough to enjoy lots of good moments. It gave a lot and it took a lot. I think me and tennis are about even now.”

(Source: Guardian)